SINGAPORE — The Video Assistant Referee or commonly known as the VAR will be ready for use when defending Singapore Premier League (SPL) champions Albirex Niigata FC (S) takes on 2022 Singapore Cup winner Hougang United in the traditional season-opener Community Shield on Feb 19 at the Jalan Besar Stadium at 6 pm.
Tickets to the Community Shield match can be purchased via the FAS website (www.fas.org.sg/tickets), and are priced at $15 for adults and $5 for children aged 12 years old and below. Match tickets may also be purchased onsite at the Jalan Besar Stadium ticketing booth on match day itself.
Earlier in the year, the Football Association of Singapore announced that the VAR received the green light after passing a final assessment by FIFA, which comes after an implementation process that began in February 2022. There was a media VAR workshop held on Monday to showcase the readiness of the system and match officials ahead of the new season.
“The VAR system is increasingly becoming a staple feature in football since its introduction and we are pleased to have this piloted for the SPL, which will undoubtedly help to enhance and elevate the levels of officiating here. We are grateful for FIFA’s assistance, and of course the various local clubs who have helped us during the implementation process. I am confident that this is a positive development for Singapore football,” said Nazeer Hussain, FAS Director (Referees) in a media release in January.
During the media VAR workshop, Nazeer explained to the Straits Times that last year SPL referees went through 22 training sessions to be accredited to operate the VAR system. There are currently 37 SPL referees. 11 of the 12 match referees are certified as VAR referees, whereas nine of the 25 assistant referees are able to be assigned as VAR assistant referees. Six match officials are assigned to each match, four on the pitch – one of which is the match referee and two are the assistant referees – and two stationed in the VAR operating room.
This year’s league will also see the return of two-time champions Brunei DPMM who was forced to pull out of the competition midway through the 2020 season due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. The Bruneians will play their first three matches at the Jalan Besar Stadium as their homeground Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium is currently undergoing major renovation works.
With the inclusion of DPMM, the league will now see a total of nine teams for the 2023 season. They are reigning champions Albirex, last season’s runners-up Lion City Sailors, Tampines Rovers, Geylang International, Hougang, Tanjong Pagar United, Balestier Khalsa, and the Young Lions. The league’s format will change to a triple round-robin format from last season’s quadruple one, where each team will play 24 matches – 12 home and 12 away.
The Sailors are set to take on Tanjong Pagar in the league’s first match on Feb 24 at the Bishan Stadium. The following day’s fixtures will see Albirex taking on the Young Lions at the Jurong East Stadium, while Tampines will be up against their traditional eastern rival Geylang at the Our Tampines Hub. The full week one matches can be found below.
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